Mortar lands in Congo as UN chief arrives
GOMA, Congo (AP) -- A mortar round exploded in Goma, a city in eastern Congo which has been in the crosshairs of this country's latest rebellion, officials said Wednesday, as the United Nations secretary-general arrived in Congo's capital for a two-day visit expected to take him to Goma.
The mortar killed one person and injured four in the Ndosho neighborhood inside Goma, said Madnodje Mounoubai, a spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo.
"We have no indication of who sent it," he said.
Rebels with the M23 movement continued fighting with government forces just north of Goma on Wednesday in a third day of fighting after a nearly six-month lull, a rebel spokesman said by telephone.
Congo, an enormous country the size of Western Europe, has endured decades of conflict, especially in its mineral-rich east, which borders the smaller, but militarily more powerful nation of Rwanda. An investigation by U.N. experts found that Rwanda has backed several of the rebel groups that have wreaked havoc in eastern Congo. Last November, Rwanda was accused of having sent battalions of soldiers across the porous border between the two nations in order to help the M23 rebels seize the city of Goma.
The rebels marched straight past the hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers stationed at the gates of the city, who didn't stop them because their mandate is to protect civilians and not to engage militarily. The U.N. was widely criticized for failing to stop the rebel advance and in the months since then, the Security Council voted to create a special intervention brigade in Congo whose mission it is to fight the M23. The rebels occupied the city of Goma for 10 days before agreeing to retreat under intense international pressure.
The M23 rebels are now stationed just north of the city and on Monday, they attacked government positions, a military spokesman said. The rebels continued fighting through Tuesday and on Wednesday, a rebel spokesman Lt. Col. Vianney Kazarama said that the rebels were fighting to defend the territory they control near the village of Kibati.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to discuss the intervention brigade with Congolese President Joseph Kabila during their closed-door meeting on Wednesday in Kinshasa, Congo's capital, located hundreds of miles to the west of Goma.
The nascent brigade is expected to change the balance of power in eastern Congo, though only around 100 soldiers from Tanzania have arrived so far. Congo's army has proven to be no match for the rebels, who are believed to be getting high-end equipment including night vision goggles from Rwanda.
Rwanda has denied the accusations.
The M23 called the creation of the intervention brigade "a declaration of war" and have vowed to fight the U.N. should they try to enter M23 territory.
Associated Press reporter Saleh Mwanamilongo contributed to this report from Kinshasa, Congo.